Can the Dodgers Rebuild Farm Under New CBA?

Stan Kasten has spoken about building through scouting and player development since new ownership has taken over the Dodgers. With the draft looming and a press released detailing LA's renewed interest in the international market, how much will the Dodgers be able to expand their minor league system under new rules imposed by the latest collective bargaining agreement?


The Dodgers, once known as pioneers in the international market, were virtually invisible in Latin America during Frank McCourt's tenure as owner. The same team that set records in the Dominican in 2000 and 2001 with the seven figure signings of Willy Aybar and Joel Guzman would rarely spend six figures on an international amateur from 2004 to 2011.

The frugality didn't stop there. In the draft, the Dodgers would finish among the bottom of MLB in terms of total spending year after year. Even in 2010, when they signed Zach Lee for $5.25 million, the bonus was spread out over five years, meaning the Dodgers' financial commitment to him in 2010 was just over $1 million.

From 2007-2011, the average MLB team spent over $31 million on the draft. The Dodgers, in spite of having payrolls upwards of $100 million every season during that span, spent just $23.6 million. That ranked 24th in MLB. On the international front, where they were once king, the Dodgers have spent the least of any team over the past two years.

That's what makes the work done by the Dodgers' scouting and player development staff all the more impressive. Being able to produce any modicum of talent with such limited resources is quite an achievement. While there haven't been any more Matt Kemp's or Clayton Kershaw's coming through the system, promising prospects such as Dee Gordon, Rubby de la Rosa, Nathan Eovaldi and Josh Lindblom have contributed to the club and could become key pieces of the roster over the next few years.


Today, the Dodgers issued a press release stating that the team has signed several players from Latin America and is in the process of signing more than 20 in total. Kind of a weird press release. Why? Because it's not really news.

Every year, major league teams sign a lot of international players. You hear about the guys who get millions or hundreds of thousands, but there are guys who sign for four or five figures as well that go virtually unnoticed. Teams with multiple teams in the Dominican or Venezuelan Summer Leagues must fill their rosters and do so by bringing in lots of young players.

So why are the Dodgers issuing a pres release to state the obvious? Well, for one of two reasons. Either they are seeking a PR win by betting that the average fan doesn't know this is standard operating procedure, or they're going to make a splash in the international market before new restrictions take place beginning next year.

While the CBA sought to cull draft bonuses, which I'll address shortly, it also placed limits on what teams could spend on international amateur free agents. When July 2, 2012 rolls around, teams will have $2.9 million to spend on international bonuses. If they exceed that amount, they'll be subject to luxury taxes and the potential to be restricted to signing bonuses of $500,000. Sounds like a lot, but all it does is funnel money from poor kids in poor countries to millionaire or billionaire owners.

The draft also now has a strict limit on bonuses, based on a team's picks. The Dodgers have just over $5 million to spend on this year's draft class, with penalties for going over ranging from luxury taxes to the loss of future draft picks. Again, another ploy to keep money in owners' pockets. You can thank White Sox' owner Jerry Reinsdorf for this one.

So how will the Dodgers navigate the draft with these newly imposed limitations? Well, when I spoke with Logan White this spring, he told me he had a strategy to work within the rules and produce talent. I prodded him for details, but he was rightfully secretive. Could the Dodgers underspend early and overspend late? Could they sign one guy for a lot and punt some picks? We'll find out in a week and a half.


The Dodgers' direction is building from within, through scouting and player development. Ownership is providing the resources, the staff is providing the ability, but will the new CBA give the Dodgers the chance to make it happen? Only time will tell.